Tributes for jazz legend Philip Tabane

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Tributes are pouring in for the late South African jazz legend Philip Tabane, who passed away on Friday.

Tabane (84), who passed away at the Mamelodi Hospital, was best known for his hit songs Nkupi and Muvhango.

But acclaim for his music goes back much further – to the Malombo Jazzmen, the band he formed in the early 1960s.  The band toured the United States in the 1970s, where renowned musicians, such as Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis played with them. Their album, Malombo, was a commercial and critical success.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said Tabane was rightly considered a luminary by his peers and those he mentored, as his unique sound spoke to the spirits of both living and those departed.

“It was truly healing and uplifting listening to his music and watching him perform. His physical silence leaves a great void but his sound lives on in our nation’s heart and memory, and our cultural heritage,” President Ramaphosa said. 
The Department of Arts and Culture described him as South Africa's most innovative jazz guitarists and quintessential African performer.

The Presiding Officers of Parliament also paid tribute to Tabane saying through his masterpieces he made the world pay attention and recognise South Africa's rich traditional culture and appreciate the timeless beauty of the boundless quality of its arts.

“His music was a uniting force that not only connected South Africa with the word but also bridged different generations. He inspired and worked with a range of younger musicians and, until the end, continued to captivate and serenade his legion of fans with his unique and ageless spiritually evocative repertoire,” Parliament said.

The Portfolio Committee on Arts and Culture Chairperson Xoliswa Tom said: “It is sad to know that the arts industry has lost another of its legendary musicians, whose music will not only continue to entertain but inspire and bring comfort”.

Tabane held two honorary doctorates in music, one of which was conferred by the president in 1998 as the then chancellor of the University of Venda.  

 He was also a part of the department’s Living Legends Legacy Programme which aims to identify artists across all disciplines and engage them actively in programmes that promote arts.  

The programme allows them to document and archive their own and other works, in this way enriching the telling of the South African story and engaging with young generations.

called “Malombo” by his legion of fans, has been a source of influence to many jazz artists and collaborated with the likes of the late Busi Mhlongo,  Abigail Khubheka and Vusi Mahlasela to name a few.

He won many accolades, including the 1998 South African Music Award for best single for his hit “Kea Bereka”.